Our Executive Director Provides A Recap of 2023 and What We Hope to Build On In 2024
It is with deep gratitude that I look back at 2023 and see how our community – locally, across the country and around the world – has supported the Shaw Institute and encouraged us throughout the year. The Board of Directors and staff extend heartfelt thanks for your sponsorship, goodwill, and in many instances, wonderful friendships, too many to count.
I joined the institute in 2022 and quickly recognized both the potential of the Shaw Institute but also the areas where we could greatly improve. In my new role as executive director, I have worked hard with the Board and our team to define the vision of the organization and what we want to accomplish for the future.
A recap of what you helped us accomplished in 2023.
• Conducted over 20 community outreach events within the Blue Hill Peninsula and throughout Downeast Maine.
• Through a collaborative partnership with NYU Langone Health, the Shaw Institute was sent human placenta tissue samples to analyze for the presence of nano- and microplastics. We are now expanding this program to include Harvard University, who will provide tissue samples from patients with ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s Disease and cancer to explore for plastic particles.
• Our scientists co-authored four major research papers that were peer reviewed and published.
• We actively applied for three grants in 2023 that could potentially generate $900,000 in grant funding from federal agencies and philanthropic institutions. The process is highly competitive, and we are awaiting responses. We plan to submit additional grant requests in 2024 to support our work. As Executive Director, I will always strive to secure grants, collaborations and proposals that fully support our work, but those take time, so your support allows us to operate at full capacity until we receive good news.
• I accepted an invitation to join the research subcommittee of Gov. Mills’ $60-million-PFAS Fund Advisory Committee that assists Maine farmers impacted by PFAS contamination. We also continued to inform and update state officials on our research, presenting our work to Sen. Nicole Grohoski, State Rep. Nina Milliken, and Congressman Jared Golden. Both Sen. Grohoski and Congressman Golden recently provided support letters for a grant submission revolving around PFAS in Maine’s seal species.
• Provided PFAS testing on over 30 sites in our region.
• We launched a matching-donation campaign with Blue Hill real estate company, DownEast Properties, to raise funds to bring a touch tank back to our facility. Jeff and Tina Allen, owners of Downeast Properties, pledged to match donations up to $10,000 … and we are happy to report that we have reached our goal! The funds will not only support purchasing the touch tank, but also to develop a curriculum for outreach and education.
• We upgraded our laboratory with the addition of two new analytical instruments for our bacteria monitoring and human health programs. We finished negotiations and received a favorable enough discount to purchase the instrument that will be set up in Blue Hill in the early spring 2024.
• We launched an all-new Shaw Institute website with updated information, improved navigation and greater user engagement.
• We continued our summer internship program and our Environmental Speaker Series, successful programs that span several years. We want to thank Colby College for sponsoring our interns, and three local businesses — the Blue Hill Wine Shop, MoMo’s Cheesecakes and the Brick Block – for helping support the speaker series. If you would like to sponsor a lecture, volunteer for an event, provide a service, or suggest topics and speakers for 2024, please reach out.
Your support elevates our performance and amplifies our impact. Our promise to you is to honor our shared commitment and purpose to work together to improve human and environmental health.
We are excited to extend our scientific research programs, expand working partnerships, and grow new outreach and education opportunities. With your help, the Institute will continue to be a hub of scientific research, collaboration, and overall impact — the first of its kind in our community. And we’re just beginning. If you have the means, please consider making a tax deductible donation to help us with the following:
- Expand our community outreach and education.
- Enhance our annual internship program.
- Broaden our PFAS testing and coastal Bacteria Monitoring efforts, helping keep our communities safer.
- Improve our laboratory facility and testing capabilities.
- Pursue new technologies through collaboration and the acquisition of equipment that supports key research on human and environmental health.
- Add one or two staff members to better support growth of our research capabilities, education programs and community services.
Also, please consider a monthly gift, which allows us to plan better and farther into the future. And please keep in mind that you may also dedicate a gift in honor of a special person in your life.
On a humorous note, I recently saw a t-shirt with the saying, “At the start of every disaster movie there’s a scientist being ignored.” Thank you for paying attention!
With sincere thanks,
Charles Rolsky, Ph.D.
Executive Director and Senior Research Scientist
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